Yes, @FATJEW's new interview is infuriating
Twitter is full of funny people. Josh Ostrovsky, a.k.a. Instagram comic and meme re-poster @FATJEW, knows this because he steals from those people. Dozens of comics have recently claimed, in the wake of Ostrovsky getting signed to CAA, that he's been plagiarizing their work on social media and getting paid for it. Those people turned out to be right. Since folks like Patton Oswalt and Kumail Nanjiani have also mocked his shameless plagiarism, New York magazine checked in with Ostrovsky to see where he stands on the allegations. Here are the most infuriating excerpts with brief, obvious explanations why they're incendiary.
To start out, can you go into detail about how your Instagram operation works? Absolutely. It's important to note that Instagram — social media in general — is just a part of what I do. It’s not the focus. I've got White Girl Rosé, I've got a book coming out, I've got plus-size modeling, I've got all kinds of different stuff happening. Social media is one part of the business ecosystem. I'm a commentator. My interns and I find pop-culture stuff that's hyperrelevant and that's going to resonate with people, and when it feels right, we put it up. At the end of the day, I get it: I should have been providing attribution for all posts. It's always been important to me. The internet is a vast ocean of stuff, and sometimes it's hard to find the original source of something. I now realize that if I couldn't find a source for something, I probably shouldn't have posted it in the first place.
I'm working to add attribution to every one of my posts, and will continue to do so. My email address is up. I urge people to reach out and say, “That's my thing.” I would love to give credit. I want people to shine on social media, I always have. And I will never again post something that doesn't have attribution, because I realize now that when the stage is large enough, and the voice is large enough, these things matter.
Ostrovsky's excuse for thieving jokes from real comedians: "Whatever, I do other stuff too!" The offense is less offensive since he's also a wine salesman, see.
The richness of a statement like "The internet is a vast ocean of stuff, and sometimes it's hard to find the original source of something" is very special. He clearly knows the original source of everything he steals since it's always verbatim theft. He has frequently replied "Whoops" or "Geez, I guess an intern stole it!" to Twitter users who accuse him of stealing their work. The grimmest moment here is how he feigns cordiality by offering up his email address to offended comics. Leaving out your contact information for your rightful detractors is, oh, patronizing at best. The internet already told him he's a thief. Nobody needs to yell "J'accuse!" at him anymore, especially within an email that some bleary-eyed, unpaid intern will read on The Fat Jew's behalf. Does Ostrovsky know that running a for-profit operation with a unanimously unpaid staff is illegal? Or does he think that's just part of the "commentator" biz?
Do you think you've ever stolen a joke?
I mean, no, not intentionally. If something was heard and written down, then that's probably what happened. I didn't realize that if you don't have a source for something, then you couldn’t necessarily post it. I don't think that was always clear.
Basic courtesy wasn't always clear to Ostrovsky. No one ever explained it! I wish he could've overheard someone talking about it so he could've scribbled it down verbatim, posted it on his own Twitter account, and claimed credit for it.
As you said, you didn't intentionally think, I’m going to take this thing. But you're aware that other people have perceived what you are doing is stealing jokes, correct?
Yeah, I'm not sure. I can't speak for anyone but myself. I only know what my perspective is: I want everyone to be heard. That's why I'm going back and adding attribution.
Or: Go back and delete all those posts since they're not your jokes and it's far too late to give credit where it's due now. If you're a commentator, you'll come up with other stuff to comment about.
With all your projects, it’s clear that you want to be known as different things. In ten years, if the first thing on your Wikipedia page says, “Instagram celebrity and joke thief,” how will you feel about it?
If this situation is a part of internet history, I just want to make sure that in ten years, I'm on the right side of it. There's a large disconnect in how people view this issue. There are many people who say, “Oh, it's the internet. It doesn't matter. Everything is shared at the common space.” Then there are a lot of people who say, “This is my livelihood. This is what I do and this is my craft, and you're infringing on it and you're being a dick by monetizing it.” I could look at myself as being in the center of that in a bad way, but instead I see myself as someone who can bridge the two sides.
I want the people who don't take it seriously to take it seriously, and I want the people who take it seriously to, at the very least, understand where the other side is coming from. Then we can all get on some chill common ground and start looking at weird pictures of Donald Trump again.
What's more endearing than someone who thinks the solution to a problem -- particularly a problem concerning only him -- is getting everyone else "chill" again? Now, indeed, the internet is a shared space. I think that's why Twitter, itself a forum for shareability, provides a tool called a "retweet" that allows you to credit the clever person who's trying to stay afloat in the "vast ocean" of the web. Maybe.
And maybe stealing on Twitter isn't an actionable legal offense. That doesn't matter. The important thing is that sometimes ugly narcissism gets its comeuppance. Apologies to the unpaid intern who gets to explain that.